Morris and Joyce Orr have been married for 72 happy years and still live independently.
Morris and Joyce Orr have been married for 72 happy years and still live independently. Contributed

Morris Orr's remarkable life includes time on Kokoda Track

MORRIS Orr was born July 6, 1918, in Chatswood, New South Wales.

He went to school at Willoughby where he enjoyed sport, especially football and athletics. He also surfed.

These activities were to stand him in good stead when he needed all his strength to survive the Second World War.

In 1934, aged 16, he was apprenticed as a compositor and linotype operator at Frank Packer's Sydney Newspapers Ltd, publishers of The Australian Women's Weekly.

He was paid the princely sum of 17/6 ($1.75) which rose steadily to three pounds, 15 shillings ($7.50) when he became a full tradesman.

One memorable workmate in the composing room was Ita Buttrose.

He remembers the sparks that flew between her and management and also remembers Kerry Packer's first day at work and the colourful rows between father and son.

In 1936, he met a "lovely looking sheila", Joyce Veronica Fenn at Lunar Park and they became engaged in November 1939, at the start of World War II.

Morris completed his apprenticeship in 1940, then joined the Australian Military Forces.

He quickly found himself in Port Moresby. He remembers the battalion had to camp with no tents and only one tap for water. They considered themselves lucky to have mosquito nets.

In June 1943, he returned on leave from New Guinea for 10 days.

The handsome soldier married his sweetheart and they had a seven-day honeymoon at Wyong before he returned to New Guinea.

Joyce joined him for a few days in Brisbane, then they didn't meet again until 1944 when his unit returned to Sydney.

Life in New Guinea was hell. Morris endured the Kokoda Track, living on army biscuits, bully beef and the occasional taro, eaten cold as no fires were allowed.

He helped evacuate wounded along the track, realising the full horror of war when mates died en route.

He himself suffered dysentery and had to return to Port Moresby, walking where able and stretchered when he couldn't walk.

His weight a mere 40kg, the journey gave him nightmares for years.

Vivid in his memories of that horror stretch was meeting a Salvation Army Major on the track who gave him a cuppa and slice of fruitcake.

Morris was discharged in 1944 and settled down with Joyce in Beverly Hills where his two children Lawrence and Lynette were born.

Back on Civvy St, he was promoted to an executive position at his old job but in 1978 retired on a TPI pension.

Morris and Joyce have been married now for 72 happy years and still live independently, the heads of four generations. In July, he'll celebrate his 97th birthday and 72nd wedding anniversary.

Congratulations, Morris and Joyce - you and folk like you are the backbone of our nation.

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